How to Win Over Temptation

If you’ve ever stopped by the store to pick up milk and walked out with a week’s worth of snacks to go with it, you know the power of temptation.

Experts say the typical adult is exposed to 3,500 commercial ads in any given day. These hidden persuaders are designed to manipulate our behaviors. With consumer debt at an all time high, it would appear that as a nation we’ve been losing a lot of battles with temptation.

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Photo Credit: jajja

But it is possible to learn how to face down temptation, and win.

Identify the weakness. `Fess up. What are your areas of temptation? Clothes, shoes, collectibles? Movies, food, gadgets? Electronics, crafts, plants?

Stop flirting with danger. If you’re ever going to win over temptation you must stop cozying up to the very thing that causes you to stumble. If you are easily tempted by clothes, don’t spend hours cruising the mall. In fact, don’t even go there unless you have a specific need and a reasonable plan.

Don’t open mail order catalogs. Take them to the garbage and push them way down to the bottom to head off a middle-of-the-night retrieval.

Develop a diversion. Temptation is usually fueled by emotion, rarely by reason. It comes and goes depending on our moods and thoughts, and can come quite unexpectedly. When it whispers in your ear, divert your attention to something equally enjoyable but less injurious to your financial health. For me it’s ironing. You might be more drawn to a book or crossword puzzle. Or a nap.

Grow Your Own Food One Square Foot at a Time

For years I’ve tried to grow a decent vegetable garden. It was the high cost of fresh basil—$3.50 for a few measly, wilted fresh basil leaves, ditto for a pound of somewhat reddish tomatoes—that prompted me to try. In no time I added zucchini and cucumbers to my repertoire—even corn one year.

Photo Credit:  The Self Sufficient Living

Photo Credit: The Self Sufficient Living

My harvests have ranged from disappointing to mediocre. Only one year my harvest produced enough to share with others. I’m still trying to remember how I did that. So far, I’ve been unable to duplicate the results.

One thing I do quite well is weeds. I try not to take too much credit here, but I have to tell you I’ve never seen anyone else grow weeds quite as successfully as I do.

While I love the concept of a garden that’s not only nice to look at but actually produces something we can eat, I’m not 100 percent in love with the anxiety, pressure, guilt, backaches, leg cramps, and fear of needing hip replacements.

While in the past my efforts to garden have been more of a hobby than a serious endeavor, I feel that changing. The high cost of food—specifically produce—tells me it’s time to get serious. We need to become more self-sufficient, but in a cost-effective way.

While I feel that I’ve mastered weeds, I’ve failed miserably in cost effectiveness. I shudder to imagine the true cost of the pathetically tiny bounty I’ve garnered over the years.  That doesn’t mean I’m ready to give up on vegetable gardening, only that I’m ready for a new way to do it.

How to Handle a Money Crisis

You know what to do in a medical emergency, but do you know what to do when faced with a big fat financial crisis?

Dear Mary: After 10 years of marriage and tons of unwise decisions, my husband handed the finances to me to handle. I have never done this before. We have mountains of bills and $900 in the bank. I don’t know where to start. Please help me. I feel like I am drowning. Gladys

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Dear Gladys: First you need to separate facts from feelings. There will be a time later to address emotional issues and how to develop financial intimacy in your marriage. But for now pack up your feelings and put them on a shelf. Develop a mindset that you’ve been called in to perform a financial rescue for a complete stranger.

Take a deep breath and write down all of your bills. Include the “bills” for basic food, gasoline and necessary medications, if any, to survive until your next payday. Divide these bills into two lists: Essential and nonessential. An essential expense is a serious obligation that if not paid could produce severe, even life-threatening consequences. Follow this rule to figure out which bills should get paid first:

Do not make payments on nonessential debts or expenses when you have not paid essential ones—even if your nonessential creditors are breathing down your neck. 

Give Formica a Bright New Life

Recently, I reached into the pile known as my mail and pulled out a great question, “How can I restore the finish to an original, classic mid-century modern Formica top table that has some noticeable dull spots?” I have the answer, but misplaced the letter. So while I don’t know your name, you know who you are and that’s all that matters.

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Dear Reader: Don Aslett, America’s #1 Cleaning Expert says to brighten dull or scratched laminate, rub it down with Johnson’s Jubilee or a good paste car wax, Meguiar’s Gold Class Carnauba. Just follow the instructions on the package. By the way, Johnson’s Jubilee is for use on almost anything: cars, boats, bikes, countertops, skis, your glasses, but don’t apply it to floors. It’s too slick. As I recall you are very fond of your table, so if you don’t already have one of the recommended products, a $10 investment might be worth the price.

Dear Mary: I have a silverfish problem in my home. Nothing I have tried works. Please help. Helene

Dear Helene: Silverfish are such a pesky problem. They’re nocturnal, so you won’t see them much during they day. And silverfish are so hearty they can go without food for up to a year. When they do eat, they find cardboard and wallpaper to be quite tasty.

An excellent pesticide for silverfish is food-grade diatomaceous earth, available at garden centers or hardware stores. Make certain you purchase food-grade diatomaceous earth, not the variety for swimming pools which has been chemically altered and will not work as a pesticide. When silverfish and other crawling insects come in contact with the powdery substance they dehydrate. Even silverfish cannot live without water.

How to Buy Carpet

It’s not something you buy every day. But when it’s time to buy carpet, you want to know your stuff. Make a bad decision and you’ll pay dearly for a long time, and I am not talking just about the money. You’ll pay a significant price in dissatisfaction and disappointment.

First, decide the style of carpet and type of fiber you want, determined by where it will be installed and how much money you have to spend. Visit several retail carpet stores that will let you take carpet samples home for a few days. Walk on them, view them in different light. Set a heavy piece of furniture on them to see if the fibers will “rebound” once removed.

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No matter how much pressure the sales staff pours on, remember you are not obligated to purchase from any store even if you checked out samples from them.

STYLES

Plush. Usually one solid color with even, smooth pile height. Varies from light weight (apartment-grade) with fewer tufts per square inch to heavier weights that are very dense. Comes in a vast range of colors. Shows footprints and vacuum marks.

Textured Plush. Two shades mixed with varying pile heights that reduces vacuum marks and footprints. About the same price as plush.

Frieze. Very tightly twisted tufts of yarn. More expensive than plush but wears much longer—15 years is not unusual. Durable, holds up to heavy use without matting or showing traffic patterns. Rebounds well.

Sculptured. Has two types of tufts—loops and cut pile in varying heights. Often called high-low. Doesn’t show much dirt. Often used in apartments.

Simple Rules to Live By

I have a quirk, a kind of brain glitch that annoys me to no end. I cannot easily distinguish left from right. My brain locks up and gives me that infamous “404 Page Cannot Be Displayed” message.

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Of course, I blame this on Mrs. Sailor. It goes back to that day in First Grade when she called on me to answer a simple “left or right?” question. I froze. I did not know the answer.

This was not good for a child who feared punishment for even the slightest infraction. Worse, I didn’t know how I would ever figure it out. No one else in the class had a problem with left and right.

My six-year-old reasoning concluded that the class had learned left from right on a day I was home sick. She forgot to get me caught up when I returned. I would go thirty-five years attributing my problem to a missed lesson. Imagine my relief the day I learned the whys and wherefores of my personal struggle. I have directional dyslexia type of learning disability that can be treated quite successfully with a series of simple exercises.

If I’d only had the courage to say I didn’t understand and to ask for help back then, I might have spared myself a lot of grief.

Perhaps you feel this way when it comes to managing your money. It can’t be that difficult because everyone around you seems to handle their money just fine. It’s as if you were out sick the day everyone else learned the rules of personal finance.

How to Feed a Crowd and Not Go Broke

Graduation parties, rehearsal dinners, family reunions—it’s the season for large gatherings. If feeding lots of people has you in a panic, relax. I’ve got you covered with great big recipes for enough fabulous food to feed a crowd that won’t bust the budget.

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Crockpot Chicken BBQ

  • 4 pounds chicken breasts (skinless, boneless)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar (any type)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 28 ounces (3 1/2 cups) bottled
  • barbecue sauce
  1. Place chicken, water, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar and cumin in slow cooker set on “Low.” Cook for 6 hours. Drain juices. Shred chicken right in the slow cooker using two forks to pull it all apart. Pour in barbecue sauce, stir to combine. Cook on “Low” for an additional hour. Serve on buns with coleslaw. Serves 16.

Don’t Rely on Vinegar to Disinfect

Dear Mary: What is a safe disinfectant for colored clothes, such as underwear and bath towels? I can’t use chlorine bleach, and since I usually wash my colored clothes in cold water, I do not feel like I am getting them sanitized enough. Thanks. Sherri

Photo Credit: Kasia

Photo Credit: Kasia

Dear Sherri: Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill tested conventional household disinfectants, hospital disinfectants and natural alternatives to measure each product’s ability to kill specific hazardous microbes. Their results show that white vinegar killed 90 percent of germs without regard to the temperature of the water.

Sounds pretty good until you realize that leaves a 10 percent chance for Salmonella, Streptococcus and Staphylococcus viruses, Influenza A2 virus and Herpes Simplex Type 1 to live on. A product like Lysol disinfectant, on the other hand, kills 99.9 percent of those germs.

For fabrics that cannot be washed with bleach, add a liquid disinfectant according to product instructions, such as Lysol, NokOut (coupon code DPL for 10% off) or Mr. Clean Antibacterial to the wash.

Just a reminder that water at 120 F degrees water (hot) plus laundry detergent is sufficient to kill ordinary household germs without the need for an added disinfectant.